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Cover Crops Grow in Popularity Among Wisconsin Farmers


Monday, August 3, 2015   

EAST TROY, Wis. – Because of environmental and economic benefits, Wisconsin farmers are increasingly adopting the practice of cover cropping between growing seasons.

The trend is becoming more popular now that there's solid data on the benefits. The practice protects soil during open periods of the growing season and over the winter season by reducing erosion and preserving soil productivity.

Jim Stute, research director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, says there are financial advantages, as well as environmental reasons, to cover crop.

"There's a growing body of evidence that shows that the yield increase in the crop that follows is substantial, and so people are recognizing that, and so there's an economic reason to do it, also," he explains.

There's a day long conference coming up on Aug. 14 near East Troy to help more farmers get started with cover cropping, featuring sessions with successful cover croppers and on the farm tours.

Stute says the conference speakers are all experts.

"But I think the real value is getting out with people that are using them successfully on their farm and seeing how they use them, and how it improves their farming situation,” he says. “And again, it's boots on the ground, so, people that are actually doing it. "

The long-term implications of cover cropping, according to Stute, help to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The conference keynote speaker is Dan DeSutter, a pioneer in cover cropping on his 4,500 acre farm in Indiana. He fits in with the theme of this year's conference, which is Cover Crops and Agricultural Resilience.

"The resiliency part is mostly dealing with the impact of climate change, and so we know with climate change, growing seasons are changing,” Stute says. “We're getting much more frequent high intensity rainfall events, and so cover crops are one of his strategies to deal with that phenomenon."

The conference will take place at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute near East Troy. Registration is available online at michaelfields.org.

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